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Microsoft Tablet PC Research and Development


Scenario

With the launch of the pioneering Tablet PC Edition of Windows looming, Leszynski Group approached Microsoft with ideas about how to exercise the digital ink SDK across a broad variety of use cases. We wanted to determine if the toolset was suitable for use in our client applications. We knew that Microsoft would need a broad set of tools and samples if it wanted to foster rapid developer adoption, so we pitched them on our ideas.

Microsoft's Tablet PC Division staff was stretched too thin to contribute labor or management to developer tools and enterprise evangelism, so Microsoft partnered with us to help with tablet research and development. We were given almost complete autonomy to design and build multiple deliverables under extreme time pressure.


Solution

At the project kickoff meeting, Microsoft and Leszynski Group defined several specific initiatives for the project:

  • Deploy the Tablet PC operating system beta releases and provide feedback.
  • Build sample business applications with the nascent Tablet PC SDK and provide feedback.
  • Design and develop utilities and games (dubbed 'PowerToys') for public download to demonstrate the power of digital ink.
  • Write developer-oriented content about the Tablet PC SDK for MSDN and other online libraries.
  • Build ink-friendly application components for developers to use inside Visual Studio.

The project's goals were ambitious and Leszynski Group would need to quickly master new technologies and rush into uncharted territory — in short, it was just the kind of project that we find appealing! We assigned a dozen of our best developers to the project and, over the course of a year, they produced a variety of acclaimed software.

Snipping Tool

Our first invention was a utility called the Snipping Tool. Using a digital pen, users capture a free-form region of the screen, add ink annotations to it, and save it to disk or send it by email. The Snipping Tool became so popular that it was added to Windows itself.

Figure 1 in the image carousel below shows the Snipping Tool component in action.

Extending Visual Studio

A second unique utility we created during the project was a tool called inTegrate®, which was an add-in installed into Visual Studio. The tool allowed developers to create layouts for data entry forms by drawing specified shape patterns with the pen. We created shape recognition technology that the tool used to translate drawn ink shapes into Windows Forms controls, which were then directly added into the source code of a .NET application.

Figure 2 in the image carousel below shows the inTegrate component in action.

Tablet Pool

On the lighter side, we decided to also demonstrate how digital pens could be used by gamers and educators. We created a free, downloadable game called Tablet Pool where the pen is stroked back and forth across the screen to simulate the action of a pool cue to play digital billiards.

Figure 3 in the image carousel below shows the Tablet Pool screen.

Digital Paper

Microsoft wanted a fully-functional line-of-business application to demonstrate digital ink to the technology press and IT decision makers. To meet this need, we invented a note-taking application for use by attorneys and other professionals. Dubbed 'NoteTalk', its capabilities included taking ink notes, recognition of the ink into computer text, and voice recording. While the application was well received, when the Microsoft Office team found out about it we were told to stop showing it. Oddly enough, we had invented a precursor to OneNote, a product still on the drawing board at the time, and Microsoft didn't want us to telegraph the concept.

Figure 4 in the image carousel below shows NoteTalk in action.

Articles, Training, and Much More

Ultimately, Leszynski Group's team of architects, writers, programmers, testers, speakers, and trainers delivered a broad array of research and evangelism assets, including:

  • Twelve mobile application components posted on Microsoft's Tablet PC website.
  • Two PowerToy utilities posted on Microsoft's Windows PowerToy website.
  • Four technical white papers posted on Microsoft's Tablet PC website.
  • The first Tablet PC line-of-business application — a digital journal.
  • A flexible sales demo tool for use by Microsoft field sales personnel and partners.
  • Slides, scripts, and demo applications for presenters at regional Tablet PC launch events.
  • Leszynski Group speakers and content for private training events for IT professionals.
  • Leszynski Group speakers and content for eight regional Tablet PC launch events.

Successes

Over the course of several years, Leszynski Group provided value and IP to Microsoft and the global developer community in these areas:

  • Creation of mobilized business solutions for some of Microsoft's key corporate customers.
  • Research and prototyping that found its way into future Microsoft products.
  • Testing and debugging of the tablet platform and SDK.
  • Creation and delivery of educational courseware for developers and IT personnel.
  • Creation of open-source development tools.
  • Design and development of sample applications and MSDN library articles.

Leszynski Group's initiatives were highly successful, as reflected by Microsoft's invitation to our company to be the only consulting group showcased at the Global Tablet PC Launch event in New York City. Leszynski Group's Snipping Tool application was demonstrated by Bill Gates and Rob Lowe during the keynote presentation at the event, as shown in Figure 5 in the image carousel below.


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